Review of Camping Outing at Pace Bend Park, Spicewood Texas.
February 24 -25
This past weekend, before it got buggy and hot, we decided to camp out. For years, when the oldest children were young we did a lot of back country camping. The kind where you got to trek in on foot and carry all your worldly necessities on your back. Then we got the bright idea to get an RV for the sake of convenience and expediency. It has been over a decade since we have done any “real” camping. So long in fact, that my youngest, #5 at 13 years old has never been camping in the old-fashioned sense of the word, much less with horses. That finally changed this weekend!
Pace Bend is a State run Park of approximately 1368 acres. Being only 45 minutes West of Austin, it attracts large crowds especially in the summer months with boaters and cliff divers/jumpers. This time of year, mostly trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers are to be found.
The entire time we were there, we only saw one other horse trailer. There were however many people in the park. There was a 5k run, a cycling race and a Boy Scout Jamboree.
The park has approximately 400 "primitive" sites where equestrian camps are allowed. Primitive, meaning you have a picnic table, a fire ring, pit toilets and other than the lake, only one other spot to draw water from. If you want to get to a site that is not bordering one of the smaller roads, you have the choice to either hike in a short distance or off road it. We chose to off road it and haul the trailer up.
There was good tree cover where we chose to camp (Mud Cove) and it was far enough from the lake that the gnats and flies were not too bad yet.
Mistake #1: The horses were kept on a picket line, which, I realized too late, I forgot my step stool
so the first picket line was pathetically low and saggy. Waited for Dear Husband to come to the camp after work and tighten it up that night, then move it to a higher tree the next morning.
The horses spent the night tied short to picket keepers and longer, where the rope could slide back and fourth in the hour between rides or when we were at camp and keeping a close eye on them. Tied on a longer lead, they only tangled with a foot over once or twice in the daytime. Since we were there, usually eating our own meal and rehydrating, we were there to fix the situation, before they got themselves into a bind.
This is the first time that these horses have been tied to a picket line and the first time they have been tied overnight. They have however been taught to tie and stand for long periods of time, wear hobbles and ground tie previously. The picketing was my biggest worry but, they did just fine.
Mistake #2: Not having camped in so long we have since given away a lot of our previous equipment, including our cold weather sleeping bags. Being cheap, I decided to not buy new stuff and just bring piles and piles of blankets along. It ended up costing us a night of peaceful sleep and was integral in the decision not to stay the second night to try to squish a bit more riding in this morning. I knew better but, talked myself into believing we hadn't become that wimpy to the cold (40 degrees F) Lesson learned, don't skimp on the important stuff!
On the first day my daughter and I got the camp set up and explored the park, getting the horses used to the sights sounds and smells. They have not been ridden off property since the fall and were a bit antsier than normal. Some of the things they took a few hours to adjust to; the tents, the vehicle traffic, some of it loud, children running about screaming, joggers with strollers, Frisbees, kites, and very odd looking speed bumps, similar to these.
No spooks or major problems, only a heightened state of alertness until they settled in.
We took two rides that day.
On the first ride first we went north to the tip of the park where we thought they had closed off an area to riding and then south, to a point that was blocked off due to a prescribed burn. We stuck mostly to the roads on the first ride, as we found that the horses were quite calm on the trails and much more nervous in the area with all of the people doing their thing.
The second ride we went into the interior (inside the Grisham Trail road loop) where it is much more rocky and is a mountain biking haven. This is part of the "straddle your saddle" trail
Late Friday night is when all of the people began flooding in. By morning, the camp looked very different than the day before, so our first ride of the day was again to the north point and then the south, that we had done the previous day. This time they had a few more things to deal with.
A pontoon boat was parked up on the beach and we passed within ten feet of it. There were about five personal water craft in bright colors bobbing on the waves as well. Then we went through the Boyscout jamboree, which was camped on both sides of the road. Fishing poles, fishing nets being cast, soccer balls, flags flying, people running every which direction added to the scene.
My daughter made a big leap of confidence in herself and her horse when Caspian baulked and wouldn't go through the middle of the mayhem and she pushed him through anyway. It was a good ride.
Our second ride that day: A friend of mine lives only a few minutes from the park and was willing to haul two of her horses out as well as another friend of hers from Germany to ride with us that afternoon. My friend couldn't ride because she broke her ankle last week breaking up a dog fight, so it was only three of us who headed out.
Turns out the area that I thought was a "no go" was actually just closed off to vehicle traffic. It was some of the easiest and most scenic riding we did all weekend; flat and rock free with beautiful scenery all along the shores of the coves. Very nice to do some flat out runs for long stretches. It looked to be an area of the park that was once used for camping but, was abandoned now. It had a kind of ghostly look to it. The horses didn't seem to mind and we were all having a good time of it.
Back to camp. Water the horses, grab a snack and go out for a third ride, this time back to the trails on the interior. Much, much more rocky and with some mild slope, sometimes stairs of limestone sheet rock only.
Here is where I am going to warn anyone thinking of riding this park. The friend's horse we were riding with is so-so on rock when barefoot. She was shod, but she began showing some signs of being "ouchy" on the rocks about an hour in. A set of boots for her in retrospect, might have been a good idea.
In spots, it looked like someone had dumped a load of rip-rap out and called it a trail, other parts were nice and smooth for running but, you had to go through the rocky trails to get to the smoother ones. Ours did fine on the rock barefoot but, thanks to mother nature (vs. anything we have really done) ours both have extra ordinarily tough feet.
Now personal picture time.... 20170224_115808 (2).jpg 20170224_131457.jpg 20170224_121744.jpg 20170224_115821.jpg 20170224_164508.jpg 20170225_103220 (2).jpg 20170225_125827.jpg 20170224_184443.jpg